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29 Vietnamese fishermen were arrested by the Australia Border Force (ABF) this morning for illegally fishing in Australian waters, according to a press release on the ABF’s official site.
The fishermen, operating on two vessels, were apprehended in the Coral Sea off the northeast coast of Australia, from where they were escorted to Queensland.
The vessels were originally sighted by a surveillance aircraft on February 15. Marine patrol boat HMAS Bathurst was dispatched to intercept and board the fishing vessels. Both vessels were said to have sea cucumbers on board.
The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) is looking into breaches of Australian laws, including the Australian Fisheries Management Act 1991 and the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
AFMA General Manager of Operations Peter Venslovas said the arrest demonstrates Australia’s strong stance against illegal fishing in Australian waters.
“Foreign fishers seeking to take advantage and target our fish resources will be caught and run the risk of being prosecuted and having their boats confiscated and destroyed,” said Venslovas in the statement.
Last year, Australian authorities seized ten fishing vessels together with 121 Vietnamese fishermen for operating illegally in Australian waters, and confiscated over 32,000 tons of sea cucumbers.
Sea cucumbers can be found on the ocean floor and are used in a variety of cuisines and as a traditional medicine.
They generally fetch a good price on the grey market. Hundreds of other Vietnamese fishermen have also been arrested in recent years in the waters of neighboring countries, including Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, for similar allegations.
Colonel Tran Van Nam from Vietnam’s Coast Guard explained that many fishermen are unaware of international maritime laws or the boundaries of Vietnam’s waters, so they unwittingly stray into foreign fishing zones. However, others are aware of their actions, Nam admitted.
To prevent illegal fishing, the country’s Fisheries Resources Surveillance Department is trying to raise awareness about maritime boundaries and international maritime laws, and conducts frequent patrols to prevent potential violations.
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